"Serial plagiarist" leaves Minnesota newspaper; publisher apologizes

Weekly humor columns that appeared under Jon Flatland's name in the Blooming Prairie Times were apparently swiped from a host of other columnists and bloggers. The paper's publisher apologized to readers for the plagiarism that seems to date back through many years of Flatland's newspaper career.

The Blooming Prairie Times was apparently the final stop in Jon Flatland's newspaper career. The paper's managing editor slipped out of town when confronted with evidence of plagiarism. And we're not talking about lifting a couple sentences. According to the Poynter Institute, a journalism ethics group, plagiarism was a pattern through his long career as a North Dakota journalist.

One of Flatland's harshest critics is his former employer, publisher Rick Bussler. Bussler apologized to readers, saying Flatland had disgraced the Times, Blooming Prairie, and the newspaper industry by putting out a weekly humor column that contained virtually no original material.

Contacted by the Associated Press, Flatland conceded he apparently did plagiarize "but not to the extent they're saying." The 47-year-old Flatland says he's definitely out of the newspaper business and doesn't know what he'll do next.

Flatland took his material from writers ranging from bloggers to columnists with major dailies. It was one of those writers, Singapore-based humorist Dave Fox, who discovered the plagiarism and alerted other victims.

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